Pick any of the top companies with billion-dollar valuations, and a key arsenal in their digital strategy is improved search ranking through SEO. Why is it so important? Organic traffic is the highest intent traffic and they come with no cost. But with search algorithms changing faster and with ChatGPT coming in, staying ahead can feel overwhelming. Also, SEO takes quite a bit of time.
Don't worry, as I've got your back! In this article, I share powerful, unconventional SEO hacks from top companies like Zapier, Canva, Thomas Cook and more. These tactics can give you a competitive edge—whether you're an established business, an ambitious startup, or a lone adventurer setting foot in the digital realm. Let's begin!
🧐 Zapier's App driven SEO hack
Zapier's key use case is to connect two apps without coding. For example, when someone fills a lead form on Facebook, add the lead data to your CRM - Hubspot. Making two apps work with each other is Zapier's bread and butter.
Zapier's clever team built landing pages for any app-to-app combo you could dream of, so when you're searching for something like Slack and JIRA, you can bet that Zapier's there, waving at you from the search results.
People searching for these app mash-ups will find Zapier getting their attention like gold. The team understood the user intent very clearly - how to make apps work together without the need to code and built pages for different app combinations people are searching for.
Key lesson: Build pages that completely align with what your users are searching for.
🤔 Thomas Cook's Keyword Play
Let's assume Kashmir is a top holiday destination for Thomas Cook customers, let's start with that keyword.
When you look for content ideas to play with, you get something like:
1. A guide to the top things to do in Kashmir
2. A blog about the best glaciers in Kashmir
3. A page about the weather in Kashmir
Thomas Cook's competitors would build content on 1. But, the weather page might just bring the real value. Yes, guides and blogs help rank, but they're a ton of work. Enter the API: with one weather template, you can duplicate it for every destination, ranking for a gazillion different keywords in a snap.
But here's the catch: getting folks to click on "Kashmir weather" might be a stretch, since weather.com's huge box on search reigns supreme. Instead, look at the dropdown suggestions for “Kashmir weather” and you see results like “Kashmir weather in May”, “Kashmir weather in July” etc. Eureka! Instead of one "Kashmir weather" page, why not go for twelve pages, each with weather info for a different month? A genius strategy if you say.
Key lesson: Narrow your niche by going a little deeper on high-competition keywords and spin content on those.
🔗 Grubhub's backlink strategy
Grubhub is a food delivery app like Swiggy/Zomato in the US. Their first challenge was getting the site structure on point. So, they whipped up a parent page for New York and then added child pages for specific food types in the city.
Now, whether those tech-savvy New Yorkers were searching for Food Delivery, Pizza Delivery, or Vegan Delivery, Grubhub had an indexed page of all the yummiest options waiting for them:
So far, good! But they needed some genius backlink strategy to make Google crown Grubhub's new pages as the kings of authority. Well, they went with a simple and powerful plan:
The team roped in the local press and let them know about Grubhub's New York launch, with a sweet $10 off for their readers' first orders.
All the press had to do was link back to Grubhub's /new-york page, which explained the discount. In no time, that page racked up local links and shot up to the #1 spot.
Then, that "link juice" trickled down to each city's specific food pages, gently pushing them up the search results.
And the best part? The team could copy-paste this winning strategy for every new market Grubhub entered.
Key Lesson: Have a solid site structure and implement backlinking on your parent page through PR, to build authority to the child pages.
🛠️ Grammarly's Tool driven SEO
Grammarly boasts seven free tools that together amass over 3 million estimated monthly search visits.
Yet, nearly all the traffic funnels into two powerhouse tools: Grammarly's grammar checker and plagiarism checker.
What's even more intriguing is that a whopping 77.4% of this traffic is non-branded. It springs from keywords such as "grammar checker," "plagiarism checker," "spell checker," and "punctuation checker" – all of which receive tens of thousands of estimated monthly searches.
With high-quality free tools, Grammarly owns a significant portion of the organic high-intent traffic of people checking their grammar - users who would be willing to go for the advanced writing suite that they provide.
Key Lesson: Build simple and useful free tools that your users would love that are close to the key problem you are solving.
🏷 Canva's Backlink outreach strategy
Canva has a slightly brute force approach to their strategy but it works. The first part is straight-forward - Canva has two key landing pages for most of their use cases: a page for discovery and a page for creation. Both types of searchers want to find a solution like Canva, but they perceive their problem differently.
For example, a landing page for “design certificates” and “create certificates,” receives 16,000 visits a month and another landing page ranking for phrases like “certificate template” and “free certificate template,” gets 33,000 hits a month. Next, they have a team of SEO specialists whose work is to reach out to high-quality blogs and convince them to link to Canva pages. Just like sales personnel, these specialists have targets. On the surface, it seems crude but they have generated 4M+ backlinks which is not a small feat.
Key Lesson: Do things that don't scale initially, like hiring people for outreach to get the initial backlinks.
Did you know?
Understanding the nuances between different market types can significantly impact a brand's success. For developed markets, it's essential to capture consumers' hearts and minds with emotionally appealing ads that centre around the experience a product provides. On the other hand, in emerging markets, your advertising should emphasize the functional appeal of your product—focusing on the benefits, quality, and value that it brings.
However, remember that this research was conducted specifically on household cleaning products. While the insights can provide valuable direction, it's crucial to remain cautious when generalizing these strategies to other products.
Source: Zarantonello, L., Jedidi, K., & Schmitt, B. H. (October 2012). Functional and experiential routes to persuasion: An analysis of advertising in emerging versus developed markets. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 30(1), 46-56.